Ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Eastern European Communist bloc, when people mention Communist countries contemptuously, they are referring to only four or five countries such as China, North Korea, Cuba, Laos and Vietnam. Except for China and North Korea that occasionally raise people’s eyebrows by making some noise, the other three countries have been pretty quiet, until recently. Earlier this year, after the Yellow Sea U.S.-ROK joint military exercises, the U.S. and Vietnam held joint military exercises in the South China Sea. Vietnam suddenly came into the world’s limelight.
We were not surprised to see that the Yankees colluded with Japan and South Korea. After all, they are all democratic countries, but what’s going on with Vietnam? Aren’t Vietnam and China “comrades and brothers” according to China’s official media? In addition to joint military exercises, the two countries are also cooperating on a nuclear reactor project, and the U.S. provides concentrated uranium to Vietnam. …
The reason why the U.S. chose Vietnam for joint military exercises is simple: Vietnam is changing, getting closer to the United States, and it is in the middle of a peaceful evolution.
Measured by the political systems in China, North Korea and Cuba, Vietnam is no longer a socialist country. It is moving toward a democratic constitutional system with a separation of powers, parliamentary democracy and electoral politics. Vietnam is bidding farewell to “socialist” totalitarianism, and marching toward a civilized politics that is common to humanity.
In February of 2006, the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) Central Committee published a draft political report for its Tenth National Congress, asking the people to comment. In April 2006, the CPV Tenth National Congress used a contested election to select a Party General Secretary. In May 2007, 50 million voters directly elected 500 Congress members from 857 candidates.
Vietnam is in the process of abandoning totalitarianism. Moving forward, the country is expected to end the Communist Party’s monopoly, allow freedom of the press, and establish an open society that features pluralism and freedom of choice. There are several reasons for the CPV’s success in its far reaching political reform. The Vietnamese Communist Party’s crimes in history were not too significant, and the reformers inside the Party are strong and very determined.
In its history, the Vietnamese Communist Party never promoted an anti-traditional “New Culture” Movement; it never implemented brutal, long-term, internal struggles and brainwashing as used by the Soviets and the Chinese; it never had any historical mandate to crush freedom and democracy, and to eliminate spirituality like the Soviet and Chinese Communist Party had. In their history, the South Vietnamese experienced 20 years of a parliamentary system, and the influence of democracy remains.
In 2006, the CPV passed an inner-party democracy and anti-graft resolution. In 2007, it launched parliamentary democracy. The Party amended its constitution and replaced the Marxist-Leninist definition of “pioneers of the working class” with “pioneers of the Vietnamese working people and the whole nation.” Vietnam was influenced by Buddhism for more than 2,000 years, and by Catholicism for 500 years. Among Vietnam’s 80 million people, 53 million people believe in Buddhism or Catholicism.
China and Vietnam also differ in the way they punish corrupt officials. In 1997, the Vietnamese National Assembly passed the new “Criminal Law,” which includes the death penalty or a life sentence for embezzlement, or bribery that reaches a monetary limit. The law has not changed since then. In China, from the turn of the century, the death penalty for corrupt high officials was essentially stopped. The worst offenders, no matter how much money they stole, are given either a death sentence with a reprieve, or life in prison. Recently some high ranking officials even publicly called for an end to the death penalty for corrupt officials.
According to the 2010 Notice No. 1 issued by the Vietnamese Government Inspection and Discipline Office, starting from March 16, 2010, all government officials above the deputy section chief level, including all levels of Party and government agencies, public institutions, political, military, and public security organizations are required to declare their personal assets. This applies to executives and members of the board of directors of state-owned enterprises and corporations. This provision even requires the General Secretary of the CPV to declare his personal property and income.
In 1986, Vietnam implemented the “reform and open” policy. In 1988, the Land Law instituted the Vietnamese “household responsibility system.” The New Land Law, passed in 1993, enhanced the land reform content, extended the lifespan of various land contracts, institutionalized the households’ contracted land rights of usage in the form of “land usage rights certificates,” and granted households the right to transfer, exchange, inherit, lease, or mortgage land. In Vietnam, land became part of the market economy in the form of “safety, security, and tradable.”
Although Vietnam started its reform and open policy seven years behind China, it institutionalized the land usage market 15 years ahead of China.
In Shenzhen in the spring of 2010, in separate incidents within a short period of time, 12 employees of Foxconn jumped to their death from tall buildings. Vietnamese Youth Daily, a very popular newspaper with a large circulation, compared the current situation in China with the classic 1936 Charlie Chaplin movie Modern Times, which revealed the alienation of assembly line workers by using a machine metaphor in exaggerated and absurd scenarios. The newspaper stated that the same scenario is happening in China; Vietnamese laughed at the socialist factory in Shenzhen, just as the Chaplin movie laughed at capitalist factories. As early as 2007, Foxconn invested and built two high-tech factories in Vietnam, but there, the Vietnamese workers never have to work overtime. Vietnam’s judicial system highly protects the workers’ interests. Once, a manager of a Taiwan enterprise wanted to physically punish a worker on the assembly line. The worker called the police immediately, and the Taiwanese manager ended up spending two days in the police station. The Vietnam Economic Times reported on March 24 that in 2009, there were 216 workers’ strikes in Vietnam. Vietnam Labor Daily reported that the Vietnamese Federation of Trade Unions said the strike was mainly because workers were unhappy about wages, bonuses, overtime pay, social insurance and medical insurance. When there was a strike, the union intervened immediately, actively learned about the situation, worked with the relevant departments, and communicated with workers and employers, in order to protect the workers’ interests according to the law. The Vietnam Economic Times is the equivalent of China’s official Economic Times, and the Vietnamese Labor Daily is the equivalent of the All China Federation of Trade Unions’ Worker’s Daily. However, when have we seen China’s Economic Times and Workers Daily introduce and promote a strike? When has China’s Federation of Trade Unions ever protected the workers’ right to have a strike?
Since entering modern times, China’s students, such as Japan and Vietnam, have kept outperforming their former mentor. During the Meiji Restoration period, Japan, the long term student of Chinese civilization, surpassed China. Now Vietnam has outperformed China in its reforms. Despite the Chinese people’s constant calling for political reform, today’s political system is even more backward than it was in the 1980s. The civil rights protections in the economic reforms are absolutely abysmal.
Current Vietnam political reform makes China very uncomfortable. China’s official media so far have been mum about it. China has no commitment and no agenda to enact any political reform. Ending the one-party rule and allowing a free press will not cause a big problem in Vietnam. In contrast, China (doing the same) could cause a volcanic eruption. That’s why China does not dare to report about it. Though China blocked all the news about Vietnam’s political reform, Vietnam is returning to a normal society. Like Japan who lost the war to China in the past, Vietnam will soon surpass China in every way. The Vietnamese people look at Chinese people in a condescending, dismissive or even pitying way.